The current chaos in the streets can be seen as a spontaneous outburst of pent-up anger, or it can be seen as the result of a long campaign to engender anger by cultivating narratives of bigotry and victimhood.
It’s important to understand that the recent and sometimes violent protest marches in hundreds of American cities were made possible by a larger, and more destructive march through American society that began decades ago.
The “Long March through the Institutions” is a phrase coined by Italian communist Antonio Gramsci (1891-1937) to describe how a society could be subverted without recourse to arms. By co-opting society’s chief institutions—schools, universities, courts, corporations, media and political parties—dedicated leftists could effect revolutionary change.
For a long time, cultural critics have spoken and written about the “Long March” in the future tense—as something that could happen if we’re not careful. But it may be time now to acknowledge that the leftist takeover of American institutions is well underway. In some segments of our culture it has, to all intents and purposes, already been accomplished.
In many ways, the current protests, riots, and takeover of city blocks merely reflects the largely successful takeover of social and political institutions over the last several decades. What is especially telling is the response of various “responsible” authorities to demands for abolishing the police, abolishing the courts, and abolishing prisons. The Mayor of Seattle opined that the takeover of part of her city was a “patriotic” act that could lead to a “summer of love.” And in the midst of looting and burning, the Mayor of New York invoked John Lennon’s song “Imagine,” and wondered aloud why we couldn’t have a world with less restrictions. At about the same time, the Minneapolis City Council was actually proposing that the police force be dismantled.
Meanwhile, media anchors and analysts responded to the ban-the-police movement with solemn nods of the head and “why-hadn’t-we-thought-of-this-before” observations.
Why hadn’t we thought of this before? Well, the truth is, most of us, during our adolescent phase, have wondered if society could get along without police and courts; and after a few minutes thought, most of us rejected it as a stupid idea.
But now the left-leaning solons of our society are giving the question serious consideration.
How much of our cultural geography have leftists gobbled up? It seems safe to say that the left already controls America’s educational establishment. Since the protests began, two university professors and one Catholic high school teacher have been fired for criticizing the radical Marxist group, Black Lives Matter.
But what leftists do in the classroom is even more damaging than who they exclude from the classroom. What they have done is to convince generations of American children to reject the land of their birth as a racist, white supremacist, and violent society—not a nation worth defending but a nation to be ashamed of. With this kind of education, it’s little wonder that so many in our society think it’s time for a revolution.
How about the media? The left has not captured all the media posts. There is still Fox News and a number of conservative websites and podcasts. By and large, though, the news media is dominated by left-liberal types who see it as their duty to take up where the schools and universities leave off.
Like many in the education industry they are more interested in shaping attitudes than in presenting facts. Their documentaries are slanted to the left, their news reports are highly selective, and they push the same false narratives that are peddled in the universities about white supremacy and institutional racism. Moreover, they can count on the educators to provide them with an audience that has been schooled to feel rather than to think critically. After all, if they were able to think critically, they would realize that if the claims of institutional racism were true, then the guilty party would be the left-liberals who control most of our society’s institutions. The big cities with the highest degree of racial tension are almost invariably run by liberal Democrats. They have Democrat mayors, Democrat city councils, Democrat judges, Democrat police commissioners, Democrat school superintendents, and Democrat-controlled teachers unions. Moreover, many of these liberal mayors, city council members, judges, and police chiefs are black. If there is such a thing as “systemic racism” in our society then white and black liberals deserve the lions-share of blame for it.
But they have been absolved of guilt. Instead, all the blame has been transferred to conservatives and, in particular, onto Republicans. Take the current frenzy to tear down statues of Confederate soldiers and to rename Army bases. It’s a good bet that the vast majority of the protesters don’t realize that the Confederate Party was made up of Southern Democrats, that the Republican Party was the anti-slavery party, that the racist Jim Crow laws were instituted by Democrats, and that the strongest opposition to Civil Rights Legislation in the 1960”s came from Congressional Democrats.
Which brings us to the next target of the left’s long march through the institutions—the Democrat Party. Now, whether the left marched through the Democrat party or the Democrat Party marched to the left is a complicated question. But it’s not one that needs to be answered here. The Democratic party is now in thrall to the left. Even the most moderate Democrats in politics today are far to the left of where John Kennedy stood in the Sixties.
One sign of the party’s solidarity with the left is its reluctance to criticize hard left groups such as Antifa and Black Lives Matter. Should the Democrats recapture the government in the 2020 election, we should expect the Long March through the institutions to rapidly accelerate as more and more concessions are made to the most radical groups on the left.
So far, I’ve discussed the more obvious examples of institutional capitulations to the left—the schools, the media, the Democratic party. But there are other institution’s which, though they are generally thought to be conservative in nature, have been steadily drifting leftward.
In recent years the left has been marching through the corporate world at a fast clip. When students who had been indoctrinated by leftist professors entered the corporate world, they brought their ideology with them. The fact that many corporations now refer to their corporate headquarters as a “campus” suggests just how far the university mentality has entered the world of big business. On the corporate campus, one sees the same obsessions that plague the college campus: the deference to diversity, the restrictive speech codes, and the virtue signaling.
In the wake of the protests and rioting, corporate virtue signaling is more pronounced than ever. For proof, go to the home page of your insurance company or your bank, and you’ll likely be greeted with a message to the effect that though our country is plagued with structural racism—[insert the name of your financial institution here]—is committed to working for equal opportunity for all. Does that mean that auto insurers will give the same low rates to people who live in neighborhoods where auto theft and accidents abound as they give to people who live in safe, leafy suburbs? Probably not. But it makes for good copy.
But this kind of virtue signaling is mild compared to corporations that are actively supporting militant groups. In a recent piece for Catholic World Report, Professor Ronald Jelinek reports on some of them:
Big companies like Intel, Twitter, Nike, WarnerMedia, Nordstrom, Ben & Jerry’s, YouTube, TikTok, Netflix, Amazon, Twitch, Paramount, Starz and Hulu are publicly embracing Black Lives Matter. . . Some are answering the call with large donations—Cisco has pledge $5 million to Black Lives Matter and its affiliates. Others like Airbnb and DropBox are donating $500,000 to the cause.
Meanwhile, Seattle-based Starbucks will allow its employees to wear “Black Lives Matter” T-shirts, and it has even ordered a supply of new branded shirts that will include the phrase.
Back in the 1950s sociologists discovered that a new type of homo sapiens—the “Organization Man”—had been created by corporate culture. In the popular imagination, the “organization men” dressed in gray flannel suits, maintained lifelong loyalty to their company, and all thought alike.
But the organization men of the 50s are as nothing compared to the organization men that now staff the offices of corporate America. The dress code is more relaxed, but the atmosphere is more conformist than ever. In the 50s, one was expected to show loyalty to the company brand, but in the 2020s one is expected to show complete loyalty to the company’s leftist/socialist/transgendered/ “woke” philosophy. Or else one is fired, shunned by former associates, and unlikely to ever find future employment in the corporate world.
The left’s march through the corporate world is not yet complete, but it has, so far, been a surprisingly quick and easy march. And there has been little resistance.
The military? Ever since the Army-McCarthy hearings, anyone who suggested that the military was infiltrated by communists was considered to be a—what’s the word?—oh yes, a “McCarthyite”. While it seems safe to say that the Pentagon is not run from Moscow, high ranking military officers are, as a rule, more liberal than most people think. Barack Obama conducted a purge of Army brass when he was president, and replaced them with officers of a more liberal bent. We can assume that many of his appointments are still in place today.
Under Obama, the military became a lifestyle laboratory. A woman was put in charge of Marine basic training; the Pentagon held a gay pride event; the Air Force Academy built a Stonehenge-like worship center to accommodate pagans, druids, witches, and wiccans; and an apparently unvetted transgender soldier was placed in a position where he was able to leak nearly three quarters of a million sensitive military and diplomatic documents.
Some of Obama’s liberal-minded crew seem to have made their way into the Trump administration in its early days. After Lieutenant General Michael Flynn was sidelined, he was replaced as National Security Advisor by General H.R.Mc Master. In appearance, McMaster looked like the second coming of General Patton, but in reality, he was cut from the same ideological cloth as Obama. Once ensconced in the National Security Council, McMaster conducted a purge of his own. He fired at least a half dozen highly accomplished conservatives from top level positions at the NSC, and replaced them with more politically correct types. One of the replacements was Mustafa Javed Ali, a man whose previous position was that of Diversity Outreach Coordinator for the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Was Javed Ali qualified to assume the position of Senior Director of Counter-Terrorism for the National Security Council? To even ask the question would have been deeply offensive.
In this context, it’s worrisome that in the midst of a nationwide insurrection, a number of current and retired high-ranking officers chose to take a very public stand against President Donald Trump. It’s not that the generals didn’t have a point about the wisdom of Army intervention in domestic affairs, but that their own intervention appears to have been a coordinated and deliberate attempt to undermine the authority of the president during a time of national crisis.
If nothing else, the generals failed to grasp the seriousness of the situation. Arguably, the rioting, burning and looting in more than one hundred American cities had created a situation that was as serious, if not more serious, than those past instances where presidents had ordered military intervention to restore order.
Early on, the George Floyd protests had been hijacked by well-organized neo-Marxist groups such as Antifa and Black Lives Matter. While other protestors were protesting Floyd’s death, these radical elements were protesting the very existence of the American form of government. It’s not clear if all of our military leaders have grasped that distinction.
I’m not suggesting that the military has been co-opted by the left. But we shouldn’t assume that they can’t be. At a time when virtue is equated with fighting for social justice, America’s warrior class is under increasing pressure to establish its social warrior credentials. We, therefore, should assume that the military is a prime target of the long marchers of the left. The left is aiming for a coup, and history suggests that the most successful coups are engineered by groups that manage to win the military or elements in the military over to their side.
The current chaos in the streets can be seen as a spontaneous outburst of pent-up anger, or it can be seen as the result of a long campaign to engender anger by cultivating narratives of bigotry and victimhood. Over the years, the campaigners have been quite successful in winning the sympathy and support of many of our society’s crucial institutions. Hopefully, there is still time for courageous people within these institutions to come to their senses and realize that they are being used.
The Church, by the way, is one of the institutions that the long marchers have targeted for takeover. Judging by the enthusiastic embrace of Black Lives Matter on the part of some Church leaders, the marchers are making progress. But that is a subject for another article.
This article originally appeared in the June 17, 2020 edition of Catholic World Report.
Pictured above: Black Lives Matter march in Baltimore
Photo credit: Pixabay